Farmington Hills — Abby Krzywiecki was all smiles after a rare 0-for-3 performance at the plate Thursday evening in Farmington Hill Mercy’s Catholic League softball semifinal game against Allen Park Cabrini.
For one reason, Mercy defeated Cabrini, 6-2, to move on to Monday’s 5 p.m. title game against Pontiac Notre Dame Prep at the University of Detroit.
For another, Krzywiecki — a senior first baseman/pitcher — is into more than just personal stats. She loves being a leader, showing her support by jumping up and down when senior pitcher Andrea Elmore slugged her first career homer, a three-run shot in the third inning to break a 2-2 tie.
And, Krzywiecki knows her time would come again to slug the ball out of the park, something she has done with regularity throughout her four years at Mercy.
Krzywiecki has 14 home runs and 60 RBIs her senior season to place her in the top five in state history in both home runs (42) and RBIs (202). She has several more games if Mercy can duplicate last year’s postseason run to the Division 1 state semifinals.
Mercy is 26-1 and has a strong pitcher in Elmore, who is 18-0 with a 1.52 earned-run average.
“One of our goals was to get to Catholic League finals because last year we unfortunately fell to Regina, so it feels good to be able to get back on our feet,” Krzywiecki said. “This is our senior year and we want to go out with a bang.”
Of Elmore’s homer, Krzywiecki replied: “That was crazy. Did you see me doing jumping jacks? I was throwing my arms in the air. I was so excited for her. It was like, ‘Welcome to the club. You’re like one of us now.’
“It’s very comforting to know that there are people who have your back and will do anything to help the team and it’s not a selfish game.”
Krzywiecki played in the shadow of former Mercy catcher Alex Sobczak her first three years. Sobczak, now a freshman at Michigan, owned the Mercy record with 40 homers, including 17 as a sophomore.
Krzywiecki will play next year at South Alabama, where she plans to major in International Business. She is tied for fourth for career homers, still seven shy of Erika Underwood’s record of 49 with Addison from 2012-15.
“I think that my mentality now is, like, swing hard rather than hit it out of the park,” Krzywiecki said. “I feel if you think about hitting it over the fence, you’re going to swing too hard and you might pop it up or have a bad day. I think that my mentality has helped me a lot and my swing has not changed since my freshman year, but my mentality has and I think that has carried me through, which is great.”
Krzywiecki has worked on her game through travel ball with Finesse during the summer months, having just two weeks off. So, where has she improved through the years?
“I think I just have more confidence,” she said. “We’ve had good leaders and since they’re gone now, I have to be a leader myself so I want to be able to show the other girls on the team that I can do it and they can do it.
“I want to carry the team on my back and be a leader and I think that’s what has really helped my confidence, also knowing if I don’t have a good day, that they will have a good day for me and that’s why I couldn’t be happier coming out here every day and playing with them.
“I think I’ve always been a leader — it’s just my personality — but it’s great we have all three of our seniors as captains because we work very well together, we have really good chemistry and we’re really good friends, and we take this team and turn it into fun rather than work.”
Mercy coach Alec Lesko is impressed with Krzywiecki’s leadership as well as her play at the plate and on the mound, where she is 8-1 this season with a 1.00 ERA with great control (60 strikeouts, 10 walks).
“Abby’s the glue, holding everybody together,” Lesko said. “Even on her bad days. You couldn’t tell she hadn’t hit one out of the infield today. She was right behind everybody and she may have been happier than Andrea after that home run. The whole team feeds off of that and the other two seniors are right along with her. They are great communicators.
“Abby has always been a power hitter, but she does some pitching duties and she has over a .900 winning percentage. I’m most proud of Abby with the hard work she’s done on her defense. Our infield has nothing but confidence throwing the ball over. There’s no worries with her there.”
Nelson perfect for top-ranked Saline
Joshua Nelson has taken on the role of ace on top-ranked Saline’s pitching staff during his senior year, and he has been close to perfect.
Nelson is 7-0 with a 0.15 ERA, giving up his first earned run in the last two years in Monday’s SEC Red-clinching 11-1 win over Ann Arbor Pioneer. He has 56 strikeouts in 40 innings this season with a WHIP of 0.62 for Saline (26-4), which reached the Division 1 state championship three straight years (2008-10).
“Being ace on a program that’s been as successful as Saline’s is a prestigious honor,” Nelson said. “I’ve grown up in Saline, moved here when I was 2, so I know all about the program’s history. I’ve worked hard on my game. I feel my best pitch is my slider, that’s my out pitch.”
And, Nelson is the first African-American to play for Scott Theisen, who has been head coach at Saline since 1993. He recalled that Chris Baker did try out nearly 20 years ago before deciding on track and field, then going on to play tight end for the New York Jets.
“Nellie’s done a great job for us, been real consistent,” Thiesen said.
Saline has a half-dozen players expected to play Division I ball in college, including four seniors who have signed. Nelson talked with coaches at Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan but will play at Wayne State. He owns a 3.6 grade-point average and plans to study medicine, hoping one day to be an anesthesiologist.
Saline has an outstanding pitching staff, including junior Sean O’Keefe, who missed nearly a month with a hamstring injury. O’Keefe, now healthy, recently threw a perfect game against Ann Arbor Huron. In a 3-2 victory Monday over Pioneer he hit a walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the seventh.
“(Nelson’s) the best pitcher on our staff,” O’Keefe said. “He’s just one of the guys, just wants to win like all of us. He has a funky delivery and that makes him tough. I know I wouldn’t want to hit against him.”
Theisen owns more than 600 career victories and 17 league titles.
Jefferson aims to go out a champ
Anna Jefferson was an individual state champion her freshman year at Oak Park, winning the 400-meter dash with a time of 55.44, then repeating as champ her sophomore season at 53.50.
She was a state champ again her junior year, but as a member of relay teams, falling short in individual events.
Now, Jefferson is ready to get the job done as a senior before heading on to Virginia.
She is competing in the 100-meter hurdles for the first time. She showed Saturday in the Division 1 regional at North Farmington that she is a legitimate threat to win the title in next month’s title meet in Hudsonville, winning the high hurdles with a personal-best 14.1 seconds, topping her teammate and Ohio State-bound Brianna Holloway in the process. She was also the 400 champ at 55.15.
“This year is going a lot better than I thought it would be,” Jefferson said. “This is the very first time I’m running in the 100 hurdles and I’m happy I get to run it, do different things and show people how versatile I am.
“I’ve really worked on my 100 hurdles, trying to fix my form and get my time down for states. I’ve only run the open quarter about once or twice.”
Jefferson finished second at state last year in the 200 and 400 dashes.
“This year, I have a lot more confidence in myself,” Jefferson said. “Some things happened last year that I’m happy that it’s over with now and my body is back to where it used to be.
“Last year, I strained my hamstring twice, nothing major, but enough to prevent me from winning. I tweaked my hamstring earlier this season in the Jackson Invite, but I just got my (personal record) with a 14.10 so I’m pretty proud of myself right now. Everything’s going great.”
Zach Schwartzenberger, Jr., Saline
Schwartzenberger, who has an offer from Northwestern, hit a pair of homers and knocked in five runs to lift Saline to an 11-1 win over Ann Arbor Pioneer Monday to complete the doubleheader sweep to earn the SEC Red title.
By the numbers
42: Career home runs by Farmington Hills Mercy senior first baseman Abby Krzywiecki
1: Run allowed by Saline senior pitcher Joshua Nelson this season over 40 innings
5: Consecutive SEC Red baseball championships won by Saline
Top coming events
Catholic League baseball championship
Birmingham Brother Rice (23-7) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (21-10), 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Comerica Park: Brother Rice is seeking its fifth consecutive A-B title.
Brother Rice senior Karl Kauffmann, signed with Michigan and a possible draft pick in next month’s MLB draft, tossed a three-hitter Saturday in an 8-0 semifinal win over Warren De La Salle. Brother Rice has won three of four games against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s this season. OLSM is the defending Division 2 state champion.
Detroit PSL track & field finals
10 a.m. Saturday, at Detroit East English: The Public School League finals will have their share of athletes who will use the competition as a warm-up for the state finals June 4.
Cass Tech junior Donovan Johnson, the national 60-meter indoor champion, won the regional Friday at Grosse Pointe South in the 100 meters with a time of 11.08, topping West Virginia-bound running back Martell Pettaway of King (11.17).
“I want to carry the team on my back and be a leader and I think that’s what has really helped my confidence.”
— Abby Krzywiecki, Farmington Hills Mercy first baseman, who is hitting .534 with 14 homers and 60 RBIs